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2011 Interdisciplinary Graduate and Undergraduate Seminar Entitled Western Encounters with India

Posted on November 14, 2011

During the fall semester of 2011, Professors Tim Keirn and Eileen Luhr of the CSULB Department of History taught an interdisciplinary graduate and undergraduate seminar entitled Western Encounters with India (C/LA 496A/596A).  The course built on themes developed in an earlier seminar, taught by Keirn and Professor Norbert Schurer of the English Department, which culminated in the publication of an edited volume British Encounters with India (Palgrave, 2011).  In the course, students explored the encounters between India and the West since the eighteenth century through sources that ranged from Orientalist and British East India Company texts to Kipling’s Kim to exposes on Indian gurus to accounts of the Beatles’ visit to the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  In weekly discussions, students sought to locate forms of cultural hybridity that resulted from encounters between India and the United States and Britain. 

CSULB students and faculty at the 18th century Jantar Mantar observatory in Delhi.

A January short-study abroad course allowed these students to delve more deeply into the history of India.  While in the north, students learned about the history of the Mughal Empire.  Highlights included trips to Delhi’s Red Fort, Humayan’s Tomb, a heritage tour of Old Delhi, and a visit to the Taj Mahal and the historical sites of Agra.  A visit to Lucknow University allowed for interaction with Indian university and local community college students. The itinerary then took the students to southern India, where students toured Mysore and Srirangapatna and sites associated with the late eighteenth century rule of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan.  In Kochi, students again witnessed examples of the Indian encounter with other cultures, including Syrian Christians, Jews, Chinese mariners, and Portuguese, Dutch and British merchants and imperialists.  Finally, students relaxed on an afternoon boat tour through Kerala’s backwaters that set the background for a reading of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.  Students completed their study tour with a few days encountering contemporary and historical India in the city of Bangalore – the famous technology hub and capitol of the state of Karnataka. Students reflected on their trip through final research papers or lesson plans based on their experiences in India.

Chelsea McQuarrie with Indian students at Lucknow University.